We can safely say that influencer marketing and the industry as a whole have finally reached maturity. Established work and ethical principles, clear basic forms of advertising, and an established methodology for calculating results make it possible today to predict much more clearly what can be expected from this market in the future. As the industry reaches maturity, the bar for quality is raised even higher, and a clear expectation is set: more stability, authenticity, and, above all, creativity.
Video and audio content is still the king
This has been a trend for years. As a result, all the most popular social networking platforms have been focused on improving their video creation tools like never before, with new effects and filters, extensive audio libraries, automatic audio transcription, and many other new features reaching content creators. This platform focus was dictated by TikTok, which took a good slice of the market pie and was followed by Youtube in the summer of 2021 with the global release of Shorts, the new equivalent of TikTok videos, while Instagram announced in the early summer of that year that it was no longer just a photo-sharing platform, but a video-focused one.
This social media focus on video content and the increasing availability of creative tools has led to some exceptional communication solutions for influencers in recent years—creative and dynamic Instagram Reel and TikTok videos, the resurgence of the Live format, and the apparent rise of podcasts. But what does this mean for brands?
According to Ogilvy, video content generates 11% higher conversions and 2-3 times higher click-through rates than static, photo-format content. Consumers have become discerning in the busy world of social media advertising, and high-quality photos are no longer enough to capture their attention—they want to experience products or services. So it is likely that, as the platforms’ capabilities evolve and we see the undeniable results of video content, we will see even more dynamic content on the influencers’ profiles.
Natural, unadjusted, raw content
In recent years, there has been a lot of talk about naturalness and authenticity in social networks and how broadcasting a distorted reality on a phone screen affects us psychologically. The Norwegians have pioneered this topic, with their government introducing a law in 2021 requiring influencers and brands to clearly disclose in their social media advertising whether uploaded content has been enhanced by image editing apps.
With the wave of naturalness has come to the rise of simple, seemingly effortless content created by influencers, which is currently the most popular in two categories: humorous content and stylish life. Humorous content is distinguished by the very idea of a good and funny message, but not by the aesthetic and not necessarily the visual quality of its presentation. Lifestyle portrayals try to capture the here-and-now moments, what the creator found beautiful at that second—a perfume bottle, a shop window, the roof of a building, or an open magazine on a coffee table. In the end, this collection of random moments becomes a highly creative album of everyday life.
It’s worth noting that this content also appeals to consumers, especially the younger Generation Z. Followers can feel closer to the creator by following this kind of influencer’s content because they see in the profile an unadulterated reality and something that they could create themselves inspired by the influencer.
Focus on the long-term influencer marketing strategy
Market research shows that more and more companies are allocating separate budgets for influencer communication solutions and that these budgets are growing steadily year on year. This is also evident in our own practice—brands are increasingly choosing influencers as part of their annual communications strategy, not as a single, one-off promotion, and for a good reason.
Strategic communication through influencers is more effective than individual gigs. It is much easier for a brand to reach its target audience, spread the desired messages, consolidate its positioning, and build the desired associations through influencers when the communication on influencers’ channels is not only repeated once a year but is seen systematically—once a month or at least once a quarter.
The long-term strategy of influencers is particularly relevant in smaller markets like Lithuania. Due to the high demand but limited supply of content creators, brands that strategically select influencers and can offer them a long-term partnership, thus creating a loyal circle of ambassadors, always win.
Integrated marketing solutions by influencers
The rapidly evolving influencer marketing seems to have outgrown the mantle of advertising only in the influencer’s channel. Brands, seeing the real benefits of influencers, are increasingly starting to integrate them into other communication or even new product development solutions. In recent years, we have seen a number of such examples—Karolina Meschino, in collaboration with mineral water Akvilė, has created exclusive labels for water bottles, Robertas Kalinkinas has offered his own floral compositions to Lidl customers, and Indrė Trusovė and Kristina Pišniukaitė-Šimkienė, in collaboration with Alma Littera, have published a recipe book for the whole family under the Kake Makė brand.
Solutions like involving influencers in other brand communication channels not only allow a business to develop and maintain a coherent and focused marketing strategy but also contribute to building consumer trust and loyalty in the long run. When consumers see that an influencer communicates about a brand not only on their social media accounts but also in tandem with other actions of the client, they tend to trust such a partnership more than a one-off flash of advertising. As brands increasingly focus on long-term collaboration with influencers, we are likely to see more integrated communication solutions.
More freedom for the authentic voice of influencers
Although influencers are often perceived and defined as a form or channel of advertising, their communication is not subject to traditional advertising rules. Influencer posts should not be expected to be promotional press releases and their Instagram stories—not a word-for-word reading of a communication message sent by a client. What makes content creators’ advertising unique is that each influencer interprets the brief in their own way and presents it in a way that they think their audience will like best.
It is difficult to count the number of campaigns of influencers that have taken place in Lithuania over the years. However, frequent work with content creators does not fully convince brands to give influencers full freedom to execute their ads. Overly strict guidelines often get in the way of even the most original campaign idea. This eliminates an essential element of influencer marketing—the creator’s interpretation—and leads to a pile of identical and ineffective content from different influencers.
No matter how much we try to polish influencers’ content to perfection, it’s important to remember that influencers are first and foremost loved by followers for their authenticity, so we shouldn’t ask an influencer to do something that doesn’t come naturally to them. Communication guidelines are necessary for the creator promoting a product, otherwise, they will not know what to do, but the guidelines must not constrain the influencer’s personality and require them to give up the qualities that make followers choose them. After all, every creator is interesting because of their unique way of presenting ideas, the authentic form of the content, or the unconventional tone. And if you’re planning to break this unwritten rule, remember what Jeanette Okwu, founder of beyondinfluence, said at The Influencer Marketing Show Global 2021: “If you want the perfect ad with polished text, hire an actor.”
We notice that influencers themselves are more often agreeing to brand proposals only after clarifying the creative line of communication and the presentation expected by the client. If, at the negotiation stage, it becomes clear that the brand cannot give enough freedom to the content creator’s vision, the influencer will tend to refuse the offer. This influencer stance will eventually leave less and less room for brands to be categorical, and the winners will be the clients who trust the content creators, who work together to find solutions and dare to experiment.
Employees as brand ambassadors
Employer branding has also recently become a very popular topic in influencer marketing. However, when looking for the right influencer to reflect your company’s values, we suggest you first look to those who share those values every day. Who better could tell the story of a company’s culture, services, or products than the employees themselves?
According to Edelman 2020, consumers ranked market experts, brand technologists, company founders, and employees among the most trusted brand communicators. This is a clear indication that consumers are not only looking at the profiles of the influencers promoting the brand but also paying attention to what is being said in the public domain by people directly involved with the brand.
Employee ambassador communication is most often seen on Linkedin, but it is increasingly moving to other social networks in a variety of forms. A great example of such ambassadorship in Lithuania is the communication of BIOK laboratories and the production of their cosmetics expert Gintarė Mykolaitienė on Instagram.
Just as in the case of influencer-ambassador communication, in employee communication, the right selection of people is key. Selecting employees who are motivated and love their work, thinking about their incentives, and discussing the objectives and outcomes of success lays a solid foundation for an employee ambassador program. As consumers increasingly look for authentic voices they can trust, it is likely that brands will also increasingly consider looking for such voices within the company.
A good brief is like a work of art
A well-crafted brief has always been the cornerstone of a successful campaign, but as influencers are demanding more and more specifics from brands, the importance of the brief is only increasing.
The expectation for a quality brief is very specific—it must be clear and detailed. The saying “a good start is half the work” applies here because once a solid foundation is laid, the campaign can be successfully launched.
Without communicating the objective to the agency and content creators, there is too much room for misunderstanding and for expectations to be missed. It is particularly important for the client to do this homework in order to avoid awkward situations where a solution is found for a chocolate ad and only after selecting influencers, it turns out that chocolate is vegan and that the only influencers suitable for the campaign are influencers who actively talk to their followers about a vegan diet.
Looking back over the years at trends in influencer marketing, it is encouraging to see a return to the origins of the creator and authenticity. Hard market challenges such as measuring results or identifying audience transparency have been overcome, and we can only look forward to creative and unique solutions.